Can International Markets Outperform the U.S. Stock Market in 2017?

A sharp sell-off in the Brazilian stock market spooked investors two days ago. The sell-off came after bribery allegations surfaced against the president of Brazil:

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The plunge in Brazilian shares did not spread to international markets in Europe and Asia, which highlights the importance of diversification.

The chart of the Fidelity Diversified International Fund (FDIVX) shows that international markets are outperforming the S&P 500 index since March, as shown by the FDIVX:$SPX ratio line pointing up (see blue arrow in the bottom panel):

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Global Equity Markets Rally; The Market is Climbing the Wall of Worry

Summary

  • A huge global equity rally is under way following the first round of the French election.
  • U.S. stocks also rallied. The NASDAQ index surpassed the psychologically important 6000 level for the first time.
  • New sector breakouts can provide “catch up” trade opportunities.
  • Geopolitical and domestic conflicts can derail the global rally, but so far the markets are climbing the “wall of worry”.

 

In our previous blog post, we made a bullish case for the equity market. The global rally did indeed start yesterday after the results of the first round of the French presidential elections were announced, as traders placed bets on a market-friendly outcome of the final election in early May.

The French stock market rallied strongly in response to the election results on Monday and today. What’s even more interesting is that the volume of the iShares MSCI France ETF (EWQ) spiked on Friday before the results were announced:

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The rally spread to almost all international markets, including emerging markets:

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U.S. stocks rallied, as well, with the S&P 500 index breaking above the downtrend line decisively:

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The Nasdaq index, which is primarily driven by growth companies in the technology sector, broke above the psychologically important 6000 level today.

Why is this level important? Many investors remember breaking the 5000 level at the peak of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Valuations are much more reasonable today, but it is amazing that it took 17 years for the Nasdaq index to make the next milestone, after moving above the 5000 level last summer:

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The technology sector continues to lead the market, but the rally is broad based. A new development is that Health Care sub-sectors are moving higher in the momentum ranking:

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The materials sector is also strengthening. The new breakout for the Fidelity Select Chemicals Fund (FSCHX) represents a “catch up” opportunity to participate in the rally:

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The Fidelity Select Health Care Fund (FSPHX) has also made a new high:

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Books describing the history of the stock market are filled with examples of the markets climbing the “wall of worry”. This expression refers to situations when equities advance, in face of known and real dangers that can derail the advance.

It seems that the current market environment is not unlike of the historic examples. Heightened geopolitical tensions on the Korean peninsula and in the Middle East, ongoing budget ceiling negotiations in Washington, trade disputes with Canada, and unexpected earnings surprises can negatively impact market sentiment within a short time.

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5 Top Fidelity Mutual Funds to Watch in 2015

Summary

  • A technical screen of Fidelity mutual funds shows that new investment areas emerged in 2015 to lead the market
  • The natural resources sector, which includes energy, has the potential to provide market-beating returns. On the other hand, investors shouldn’t expect low volatility, because commodity prices can fluctuate in a wide range
  • International markets, most notably Asia and Europe, may outperform U.S. equities this year

From time-to-time, it is important to take a broad view of the market, so we can better understand the changing conditions and dynamics. Five month ago, back in November 2014, our momentum screen showed that the top 10 Fidelity mutual funds were all equity funds representing the consumer, health care and transportation sectors of the U.S. economy (see article).

While equity funds continue to outperform bond funds, the picture is very different now. Mutual funds investing in energy and other natural resources, and international markets are the market leaders. At the same time, select U.S. sectors, such as utilities, are lagging:

FidelitySignal_-_Daily_Market_Research

Speculation about bottoming oil and commodity prices have caused an impressive rally in the natural resources sector. A great way to participate in the potentially long-term bullish trend in this sector is via the Fidelity Select Natural Resources Fund (FNARX).

fnarx

The Fidelity China Region fund (FHKCX) is now the best year-to-date performer of all Fidelity mutual funds with a 20.97% gain.

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Visit FidelitySignal.com for additional investment strategies.

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How can an Aggressive Growth Strategy Beat the Market in 2015 (continued)

Summary

  • We continue to track the performance of the FidelitySignal Aggressive Growth strategy (see details in previous article) in a difficult investment environment
  • Increased market volatility resulted in a sell signal for the materials sector fund, while the other components of the strategy continue to advance
  • As the next earnings season approaches, the economic effect of the strengthening dollar may cause additional volatility

The FidelitySignal Aggressive Growth strategy continues to outperform the market in 2015. The current asset allocation is as follows:

FidelitySignal -asset allocationFidelitySignal - performance chart

Increased volatility in the materials sector resulted in a sell signal for the Fidelity Select Materials Fund (FSDPX) and the fund was removed from the portfolio:

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The other portfolio components, such as the Fidelity Southeast Asia Fund (FSEAX), the Fidelity Construction and Housing Fund (FSHOX), the Fidelity Select Medical Delivery Fund (FSMEX) and the Fidelity Select Consumer Staples Fund (FSDAX) have contributed to the strong performance of the strategy in 2015:

 fseax

fshox

 fsmex

 fdfax

Visit FidelitySignal.com for additional investment strategies.

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Global Equity Markets in Turmoil Due to Fears About Rising U.S. Interest Rates; Best and Worst Investments in a Highly Volatile Market

Long-term U.S. Treasury yields have been rising in the last four weeks, as traders anticipate the Fed to raise rates possibly as early as June. In addition, the dollar has continued to make impressive gains against all major currencies, as quantitative easing in Europe and Japan is under way.

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The potential for rising interest rates in the U.S. and the steep rise of the dollar has led to a sell off of equities, bonds and commodities around the globe.

The S&P 500 index has retreated from its recent high and now in negative territory for the year. In spite of rising volatility, the chart of the benchmark Fidelity Spartan U.S. Equity Index Fund (FUSEX) shows that the long-term trend for U.S. equities is still bullish:

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Another important development is that commodities and oil continue to deflate, reversing the short-lived rally in January:

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In light of the rising dollar, the bear market in commodities and weak economic conditions in international markets, it is not surprising to see the Fidelity Select Energy Services Fund (FSESX), the Fidelity Select Gold Fund (FSAGX) and the Fidelity Latin America Fund (FLATX) amongst the weakest performers year-to-date:

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The few sweet spots in the current market are sectors that are not sensitive to interest rates and rely on innovation to create growth. Perhaps the most notable is the health care sector, including biotechnology stocks:

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The dynamic interplay of equities, bonds, currencies and commodities is shifting market conditions again. We continue to favor a conservative, risk averse investment approach in 2015.

Read more about investment strategies at FidelitySignal.com

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How can an Aggressive Growth Strategy Beat the Market in 2015

Summary:

  • Global equity markets are “climbing a wall of worry”, in spite of uncertainty about the potential exit by Greece from the Eurozone and geopolitical events in the Ukraine, in the Middle-East and in Latin America.
  • Quantitative easing by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan can lead to inflation of financial assets in 2015
  • Low interest rates and much reduced energy costs have started to fuel a new boom in consumer spending in the U. S.
  • The best growth strategy this year may be to diversify between market-leading sectors and emerging investment areas (source: FidelitySignal.com)

Broad market indexes, such as the S&P 500, the Dow Industrial Average and the Nasdaq, are making higher highs again after a treacherously volatile two-month period starting in early December. The good news is that investors have not shied away from risk-on investments, which is very bullish.

The FidelitySignal Aggressive Growth model portfolio can provide an example of how an aggressive asset allocation strategy can work in the current market environment. The asset allocation mix of the portfolio consists of five Fidelity mutual funds. The funds represent investments in both leading sectors and emerging investment areas:

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The FidelitySignal Aggressive Growth model portfolio currently holds positions in market-leading sectors, such as medical delivery, construction and housing, and consumer staples:

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fshox

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One of the exiting new investment opportunities is materials/chemicals. This sector should continue to benefit from low oil prices and increased demand:

fsdpx

Southeast Asian economies with strong ties to the Euro market can be great beneficiaries of improved condition in the Euro zone:

fseax

Additional investment strategies are available at FidelitySignal.com

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Is it Time for the Contrarian Bet?

Summary

  • The direction of the financial markets have not really changed that much since late last year, but volatility for U.S. equities is much higher
  • In our view, the risk/reward ratio of taking contrarian investment bets is not favorable right now, but that can change rapidly in the near future
  • A select few sectors are still in a bullish uptrend
  • This is a very dangerous market where increasing the cash allocation seems to be the prudent choice. Sudden and violent moves can happen rapidly in the currency, commodity, equity and bond markets.

Often, the weakest investments from last year can turn out to be the best performers in the next. Since international markets and sectors related to natural resources have fallen tremendously in 2014, it is tempting to take contrarian bets right now and hope to be able to buy close to the bottom. However, whether we like or not, timing can be critical and jumping into a declining investment can have a devastating effect on an otherwise well-balanced portfolio.

When volatility is increasing, it is always useful to take a longer-term view of the direction of the key asset classes. As we can see from the two-year charts below, long-term Treasury bonds are still declining, the dollar is still advancing against a basket of major currencies, and commodities, such as crude oil, are still falling.

Perhaps the most striking feature of these charts is the steepness of the curves. While it is tempting to believe that the direction of the trends is about to reverse in a big way, the reversals have not happened yet, and we simply cannot know if the next rally/sell off will be temporary, or, if it will mark a turn of the long-term trend.

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While the long-term trends for the other three asset classes have not changed yet, U.S. equities have started experiencing increased volatility since November 2014, and now are locked in a trading range. The long-term trend is still up, but the U.S. stock market is on the cusp of rolling over.

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Is it time to buy beaten down stock sectors, such as commodities or gold, or jump into Latin American equities? We think that the risks are too high right now, but would not be surprised to see these investments outperforming the market at one point in the future.

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The Wall Street adage says that there is always a bull market somewhere.  The charts below show a sampling of Fidelity income and equity funds that have done exceptionally well in the recent period, and may continue to outperform:

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Read more about investment strategies at FidelitySignal.com

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